The taller a postmenopausal woman is, the greater her risk for developing cancer, according to a study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research ( AACR ).
Height was linked to cancers of the breast, colon, endometrium, kidney, ovary, rectum, and thyroid, as well as to multiple myeloma and melanoma, and these associations did not change even after adjusting for factors known to influence these cancers, in this study of 20,928 postmenopausal women, identified from a large cohort of 144,701 women recruited to the Women's Health Initiative ( WHI ).
Some genetic variations associated with height are also linked to cancer risk, and more studies are needed to better understand how these height-related genetic variations predispose some men and women to cancer.
Geoffrey Kabat, at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York ( United States ) and colleagues used data from the WHI, a large, multicenter study that recruited postmenopausal women between the ages 50 and 79, between 1993 and 1998.
At study entry, the women answered questions about physical activity, and their height and weight were measured.
The researchers identified 20,928 women who had been diagnosed with one or more invasive cancers during the follow-up of 12 years. To study the effect of height, they accounted for many factors influencing cancers, including age, weight, education, smoking habits, alcohol consumption, and hormone therapy.
They found that for every 10-centimeter ( 3.94 inches ) increase in height, there was a 13% increase in risk of developing any cancer. Among specific cancers, there was a 13% to 17% increase in the risk of getting melanoma and cancers of the breast, ovary, endometrium, and colon. There was a 23% to 29% increase in the risk of developing cancers of the kidney, rectum, thyroid, and blood.
Of the 19 cancers studied, none showed a negative association with height.
Because the ability to screen for certain cancers could have influenced the results, the researchers added the participants' mammography, Pap, and colorectal cancer screening histories to the analyses and found the results remained unchanged.
Although it is not a modifiable risk factor, the association of height with a number of cancer sites suggests that exposures in early life, including nutrition, play a role in influencing a person's risk of cancer. ( Xagena )
Source: American Association for Cancer Research, 2013